Published: June 19, 2019 By

Gil and Nancy BermanOh baby, don’t it feel like heaven right now?
Don’t it feel like something from a dream?
- Tom Petty, “The Waiting”


If it hadn’t been for rock ‘n’ roll, Gil and Nancy Berman might never have met.

“We happened to be sitting next to each other at The Roxy on the Sunset Strip because rumor had it that Bruce Springsteen would guest star,” Nancy recalls over coffee.

Gil adds, “We immediately hit it off and quickly discovered a shared passion for rock ‘n’ roll and classical piano music.”

“Bruce never showed up, but Gil did!” Nancy exclaims.

That was in 1982, and the couple has been inseparable ever since. Through all the twists and turns of their lives, the Bermans—left, before a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert at Red Rocks in 2014—say music has been a constant and a tie that has always bound and continues to bind them together.

The Bermans’ familiar smiling faces have graced countless College of Music and Artist Series events every year since moving to Boulder in 1990. Their friendly demeanor (and Nancy’s famous Rolling Stones holiday sweater) add an element of rock 'n' roll rebelliousness to the more traditional vibe surrounding the music programs at CU.

The Bermans have become increasingly involved with the college with Gil, an independent financial adviser, serving on both the Artist Series and the College of Music Advisory Boards. “Through our involvement with the college,” Gil says, “We’ve enjoyed many inspiring concerts by talented students, faculty and world-class visiting artists.”

Nancy, an attorney, adds, “We’ve also become part of a vibrant community of passionate and devoted music lovers who we cherish as friends and colleagues.”

Gil and Nancy’s love for rock ‘n’ roll is matched only by their passion for classical music, and they see the two—as different as the two genres seem at first glance—as being strikingly similar at their core. They feel that the great rock ‘n’ rollers are phenomenal composers and virtuoso musicians, particularly Tom Petty. As Gil points out, “We were already fans of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers when we met. Besides seeing the band in concert at least 10 times, we’ve probably listened to their music more than any other—classical or rock ‘n’ roll.”


Tom Petty in concert on Instagram

God, it’s so painful
Something that’s so close
And still so far out of reach.
- Tom Petty, “American Girl”


Tom Petty’s sudden and untimely death in 2017 deeply affected Gil and Nancy, as well as countless others.

“I still struggle with his loss,” explains Nancy. “Although we’ve loved his music for decades, neither Gil nor I realized how deeply it was embedded into the fabric of our lives.”

That’s why, thanks to a generous $50,000 gift from the Bermans, the new faculty and staff lounge at the expanded Imig Music Building will be dedicated to the memory of the late, great Tom Petty. Besides honoring Petty's memory, Gil and Nancy hope that faculty and staff, and ultimately students, will introduce themselves to and be inspired by his music. As Nancy explains, “The beauty of Tom’s songwriting—as well as his humanity, humor, imagination and tenacity—transcends all musical genres.”

The following Tom Petty quote sums up what music means to the Bermans. They hope his words will strike a chord with everyone involved with the College of Music:

“Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There's not some trick involved with it. It's pure and it's real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things.”